Artist Interview :: Emily Balsley


Are you ready to meet Emily Balsley? Not only does she have one of the coolest positions ever on her resume (she once was a designer in the bike industry), but she also was in the Top 5 of Lilla Rogers's Global Talent Search! Top cinco, people! We hope you enjoy her quirky and delightful artwork.


Name: Emily Balsley

Location: Madison, Wisconsin


How would you describe yourself as an artist? I am a freelance illustrator, designer and
all-around maker.

What are your influences? I love drawing from nature and my childhood memories. I am inspired by pattern, vintage fabrics, mid-century design and children's picture books. And I am always trying to incorporate my daughter's carefree attitude and happy spirit into my work!


Are there any markets you are especially interested in? I am interested in pursuing any kid-related market - kids' apparel, kids' editorial, kids' paper goods - with my ultimate goal illustrating kids' picture books. I love the idea of being able to read a book I illustrated to my daughter. And with my interest in sewing, I would love to design my own fabric line.

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training? I graduated from UW-Madison with a Fine Arts degree, emphasis in graphic design. Though I'm formally trained in design, I have been drawing my whole life and incorporated my illustrative style whenever possible. Now that I am focusing on illustration, I am constantly learning new skills and techniques, thanks to the never-ending e-course offerings out there.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? Simply put, I love that if I want it, I can make it. If my daughter needs invitations for her birthday party, I can do that. If we're looking for a something to hang over our bed, I can do a painting. This way, I can surround myself with beautiful things that are guaranteed to make me happy!

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it? I often fear I am drawing the same thing all the time. I really love drawing animals, sunshines and my daughter, and sometimes I think that is ALL I'm drawing! I find that mini assignments challenge me to think differently. I participate in a daily drawing challenge on Instagram, where we get a different prompt each day. This exercise has really helped me branch out to different subject matter - and I can honestly say - some of my favorite drawings have come from that challenge.

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design? Find your tribe. One thing I've learned since I've been freelancing is I am not alone. There are others out there trying to make a living doing what they love, be it illustration, photography, quilting - they understand what you're going through! At first I feared that these relationships would be competitive, but I have discovered people want to share their knowledge - and there is a place in this crazy world for all of us!

What are your future goals? My goal is to have a self-sustaining business that generates enough income that allows me to create the things I love. Long term I would love for my business to be successful enough that I can take a long weekend or vacation without constantly stressing out. That IS possible, right? :-)

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself! I can juggle and eat an apple at the same time.


Check back tomorrow to meet Denise Holmes, another Happy Happy artist.